By Kathy Chouteau
This fall semester, DeJean Middle School students got a little help putting their best foot forward thanks to a collaboration among Bay Area nonprofits. On Friday, students picked up a pair of new shoes courtesy of the My New Red Shoes Foundation, and a bag of groceries provided by the White Pony Express, via a drive-through event at the school.
As an added bonus, the first 100 students who picked up their items also received a free backpack stocked with school supplies due to a previous donation to the school.
The event was organized by Dr. Fatima Alleyne, a My New Red Shoes board advisor and Contra Costa Board of Education trustee.
“Usually this is a time for families to shop for new clothes and shoes for the new school year, socialize with friends, meet new teachers, and talk about the school lunches,” Dr. Alleyne said. “While we know circumstances have compromised such experiences, I am thankful that the leadership of this community and non-profit organizations have come together to support families in West Contra Costa…Thank you to EdFund, My New Red Shoes, and White Pony Express for your support and commitment to my vision to serve this community as we navigate COVID-19, fires, etc.”
According to Jasmine Jones, executive director of the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund (Ed Fund), the collaborators wanted to help get kids excited about returning to school amid their online learning environment.
“Back to school shopping is something all students look forward to, so we are excited to partner with My New Red Shoes and White Pony Express to provide shoes and groceries to students,” she said.
DeJean students preselected their items on a form provided by the school.
My New Red Shoes, a Redwood City-based nonprofit that aims to improve the quality of life and well-being of children experiencing economic hardship, wanted to partner on the DeJean initiative “to provide students a positive start to the school year and a sense of normalcy…amid these unusual and challenging times,” according to Executive Director Minh Ngo.
Last spring as the pandemic came into focus, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) implemented distance learning, with many families still needing crucial services, such as school-provided meals, that they have come to depend upon.
“Many families are facing significant challenges because of the pandemic. To provide them with fresh, nutritious food and give them peace of mind to jump-start their children’s school year is why [we] could not miss the opportunity to be part of this amazing event,” said Helen Jones, strategic projects manager for White Pony Express, which aims to end hunger and poverty in Contra Costa County.
“Today, this partnership has truly brought an abundance of joy during some challenging days and placed some smiles on the faces and hearts of our DeJean students and families,” said DeJean Principal Bernard Brown about the event.
Learn more about Richmond’s DeJean Middle School here.